How do I discipline my child without judgement?

I got a call yesterday to say that my 9 year old son hit another child at recess.  This is the third time in 2 weeks my son has been physically aggressive at school. The fact that it had been years since he has behaved that way in front of me made me think that this has very little to do with his autism and sensory needs and everything to do with piss poor behavior.

A little back story; Evan was diagnosed with autism at age 3.  He was mostly non-verbal until the age of 6 and still struggles with language. He was a happy, gentle child but could be prone to bouts of anger and violence, both of which seemed to dissipate with the development of new language skills.

In fact, it’s been years since he’s been physically aggressive towards me and in that time, my parenting style has changed drastically.

And so I was left to wonder, how do I discipline my child without judgement?

Evan is a very large, thick child with more muscle then fleshy bits. He is solid and because of his ASD, he is a bit numb physically. Evan loves deep pressure, hard hugs and squeezes; they help to keep him aware of his body.

Evans father is 6’4″ and was 6′ by the age of 12.

The way I see it, I have a short period of time to change this behavior before my child is bigger than me.

Because it has been a long time since I’ve had to deal with this behavior, I found myself falling into old patterns of thinking; I imagined how angry I would be in advance of seeing him, to show how much I disapproved of his behavior.

But then I remembered this whole non-judgement malarkey and had to have a serious re-think about how I was going to handle the situation.

How do I show my partially verbal son that his behavior is unacceptable without showing anger or frustration?

I decided to stay calm. I would talk to him, I would discuss all the reasons why being physically aggressive is negative, how that behavior affects others and why he wouldn’t be seeing his ipad for a week.

I met him off the school bus. I was so cool. He was apprehensive at first; if this was last year, I would have acted VERY angry in this situation.  Instead, I let myself feel all of the love I feel for him (instead of hiding it behind a mask of anger) but clearly spoke to him about never hitting, about the importance of learning to keep your cool and make yourself happy by thinking happy thoughts instead of lashing out.

“When you are angry or sad, it’s up to YOU to remind yourself of all of the things that make you happy before you act out.”

“I’m sorry mommy! I won’t be hitting.”

“Ok…but can you tell me the kinds of happy things you’re going to remember to think about the next time you’re angry?  What kinds of things make you happy?”

He sat and thought for a moment and then replied, “Mommy makes me happy.”

NICE TRY, KID!

He spent the time after school on his bed, contemplating life, the universe and everything (Hitting = bad stuff. Not hitting = Good times),  ate dinner at 5:30 and was tucked up in bed by 6:15, 45 minutes earlier than usual.

The first thing he said to me this morning as he crawled into my bed for a cuddle was, “I’m sorry I hit, mommy. I love you.” which I took as a sign that he’d been thinking about it.

I sent him off to school with instructions to apologize to the people involved. his teacher sent me this: ScreenShot

#NailedIt

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Hey life? BRING IT ON!

Yesterday, after months of testing, a child psychologist told me that the son has, in addition to but not related to his autism, a mild to moderate intellectual disability.

My son has a new label.

My son is intellectually disabled.

The psychologist then went on to say that the average child with this diagnosis caps out at about a 6th grade level, intellectually and developmentally.  She mentioned assisted living homes for when he is an adult and I had a moment.

I started to cry. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Suddenly, my ‘story’ had a plot twist I wasn’t prepared for and I felt myself spiraling…

Negative feelings can come on hard and strong! I pushed them deep down and continued the meeting. I remembered that nothing about my son has changed, only our understanding of him.

But when I got home later, I continued the ‘movie’ in my head; drama, sadness, anxiety, pressure.  I fell into an old habit of justifying my own unhappiness in any way that my ego could:

“ANOTHER thing I can’t control in my life! HOW UNFAIR!”

“This child only has ME to rely on-I feel so much pressure! Anyone else I know would crack-I should be allowed to too!”

I was standing in the kitchen, going through all of this in my head, feeling like every other single thing in my life was suddenly a lot scarier or harder to face when it had previously all been covered in glitter and unicorn farts.  It was a level 1 panic attack.  And suddenly I remembered that I have the ability to change my emotional response.

I’ve been training for this for years.

I took a few deep breaths, wiped my face and started listing the positives.

My son is undeniably fantastic. He is charismatic and charming despite his lack of language, starting ‘conversations’ with anyone who will give him the time of day.  He is beautiful and he radiates happiness.  Not a week goes by where someone doesn’t approach us to mention how happy we are or how loving.  People are unbelievably kind and loving towards us both…

How do you measure awesomeness? Because I’m pretty sure that the ability to find the silver lining in any situation will serve him better then anything I learned in school.

Yesterday, it was “devastating news”.  Now it’s the reason the kid will have a tailored school experience to suit him specifically.  It means he’ll most likely have a 1-1 support worker to help follow and feed his interests. What kid wouldn’t benefit from that?

I feel incredibly lucky to be Canadian.  Our social support systems, though flawed, are amazing. I imagine living somewhere where there is no extra help and I’m instantly filed with gratitude.

This experience has helped me to confirm that practicing an attitude of gratitude will make me happier than justifying my unhappiness.

I am a very happy girl raising a very happy little boy. I endeavour to teach by example; to love himself, to learn what ignites his spirit, to be accepting of others and to unapologetically follow his passions.

No judgements, just love.

Home is where the heart, art and hula hoops are!

Image

Welcome to my home!  My room mates are my 7 year old son and his tabby cat, Theodore Huxtable.  The kid gets the large bedroom.  The rest of the space is open plan which is just a classy way of saying that all my shit is in one room.  I’ve made the best use of space that I can and often get complimented on how comfy and inviting it is but since I’ve started being a full-time, work from home artist, there’s hardly space to move!

Sometimes I have to remind myself of how utterly grateful I was the day we moved here in November 2009.  Our life in the months prior were the most stressful of my life so far. My 8 year marriage ended only months after we emigrated here from the UK and shortly after that, my son was diagnosed with Autism.   Due to financial constraints, my X and I were forced to co-habituate for the remainder of our lease. During that time, things got very ugly between us.  The relief I felt at finally having a safe place to raise my son can’t be described in any words that I know.

We had almost nothing.  We’d moved here as a family on a 2 year work visa and had left most of our worldly possessions back in the UK in our large, 4 bedroom home.  We had quite a different lifestyle back then, filled to the brim with lavishness, excess and privileged.

I never saw any of it again.  I walked away from it all without a thought.  I was happy enough just to have a double height air mattress, 2 bedside tables, a dining room set, a large floor rug, a yellow chair and my freedom! I won the TV and playstation3 in the separation because I was the bigger gamer but I didn’t have anything to put them on so they lived on my floor for awhile. The kids room was fully furnished from our condo so I didn’t have to worry much about that, we just decorated the walls with a SpongeBob SquarePants theme and called it a day.

006 2009-12-31 (26) 2009-12-31 (32)The rest of this place filled up slowly over the years.  Sometimes it feels close to bursting but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Home, for me, is where your heart, art and hula hoops are!